Butler St. deal?

Though major changes are planned for the intersection right around the corner this spring, city and Marietta College officials say there are no current plans to change the status of Butler Street between Fourth and Seventh streets.

College officials have expressed interest in having the city vacate the street in the past and there is still interest in a long-term plan to possibly do that but there haven’t been recent discussions, said Tom Perry, executive director for strategic communications and marketing for Marietta College.

“It’s certainly not at the top of our priorities list at this time,” he said. Perhaps it’s something we may see in 10 or 20 years, anything is possible.”

Rumors are apparently circulating that Marietta College administrators had asked the city to vacate a portion of Butler Street in return for providing the city with right of entry to college property for the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets traffic and pedestrian safety upgrade project.

“I did receive one phone call from a constituent who was irate because he thought we were going to close Butler Street,” said City Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward.

But Vukovic said he was not aware of any move being made to vacate the street.

Mayor Joe Matthews, who’s been involved in negotiations to obtain the right of entry to the college property, said Butler Street has not been part of any of those discussions.

“There’s nothing to that at all. We’re not trading Butler Street for the piece of college property needed for the intersection project,” he said. “That rumor has been around for a long time, but there’s no conversation about trading Butler Street for the college property right of way.”

City law director Paul Bertram III noted the idea of closing off the portion of Butler Street that runs through the college campus between Seventh and Fourth streets was a discussion that took place several years ago.

Longtime Marietta City Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, recalled there has been some informal conversation in the past between the city and the college about the possibility of the closure to provide better campus security.

“It’s been years back, and there was never any formal discussions or proposals with council that I know of,” he said.

McCauley said the thought was that the campus could be more easily secured if local traffic was eliminated from that section of Butler Street.

He noted that there have been recent efforts to make it safer for students who cross Butler and Fourth streets every day.

In 2012 the city and college worked together to install high-visibility signage on the sides and in the center of both roadways to warn drivers when they’re approaching the mid-block crossings.

“We did a safety study of those areas and posted pedestrian crossing signs at the top of the hill on Butler Street between Seventh and Fourth, and along the block of Fourth Street on campus,” McCauley said.

City engineer Joe Tucker said he’s considered requesting federal aid status for that area of Butler Street as it is a connector between Seventh and Fourth streets which are both federal aid routes and qualifies them for federal funding.

Marietta College senior Matthew Napier said he would like to see the couple blocks of Butler Street that run across campus closed to local traffic.

“I think it would be a good thing. The campus is basically divided by the street and it wouldn’t be too much of an impediment for traffic to take another route through town,” he said. “I think it would enhance the campus.”

Napier said student safety should also be a concern.

“I don’t know of anyone being hit while crossing the street since I’ve been here, but it could happen,” he said.

Marietta resident Randy Fisher said he often drives through the campus on Butler Street.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of closing off that end of the street,” he said. “I don’t see a big safety issue there. Most of the kids seem to stay close to the crosswalks.”

Scammel Street resident Cheryl Covington passes over Butler Street daily on her way to work.

“There is a lot of traffic through that area every day,” she said. “I would be willing to take an alternate route if it’s a safety issue for the college students. It could be a good thing to do.”

Matt McCracken of Marietta agreed.

“I think closing the street should be done,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous area with a lot of pedestrian safety issues.”

But Fifth Street resident Bill McElfresh said Butler Street provides a good alternate route during periods of heavier traffic in the city and it should not be vacated.

“We drive through that area quite frequently,” he said. “It’s a good thing to have an alternate route on a secondary street when traffic is heavy. I think it’s good planning.”

McElfresh noted both Fourth and Seventh streets are main travel routes for traffic moving through town, and Butler through the college campus provides a good connector between the two.

He said bicyclists often use Butler Street, too, in order to avoid the traffic along Pike Street or Putnam Street.

Dave Haney, who owns rental properties in the city, said he would support 100 percent the city’s vacating of the campus end of Butler Street.

“When the Seventh, Pike and Greene intersection project is done there will be an increase in traffic on Butler Street, and there will be big traffic as more oil and gas industry vehicles drive through that area from Fourth to Seventh street,” he said. “Marietta College is a major asset, and the city should support it any way they can.”